More Christmas Gifts

Because of predictable slowness of the mail around Christmas and New Year, I received a lot of presents in the days after Christmas. Which made it even more fun – I feel like I have a month worth of Christmas!

My older granddaughter Nadia made these ornaments with her palm print all by herself 🙂

The packager from New Zealand arrived as well. Each Christmas, I feel like this is the coolest thing to receive cookies from the opposite side of the globe! And it’s not just cookies, each year there is something else special!

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How Much Christmas Costs?

ComEd sent me an email the other day stating that I am trending towards a high electric bill. Not super-high by their projection, but higher than the bill for the same period last year.
No wonder :). I was at home all December since the city officials asked us not to go in without the pressing need. And my Christmas tree and other indoor lights were lit up all day long for the whole month! The baking was more or less as usual in December :).

Still, I started to think about whether I should include my higher electric bill in my Christmas expenses. I started to track my Christmas expenses separately several years ago. My friends are aware of my smart Excel worksheet, which allows me to track my spendings and monitor the trends.

I have been doing it for so many years; I can’t even remember. But the idea of tracking all Christmas -related expenses through the year is relatively new in my personal finances. It’s not just presents and wrapping and Christmas decorations. It is also extra baking supplies, and my insane postage, and boxes for cookies. And more food. And buying Christmas chocolates in October. And in normal years, Christmas shows. And extra charitable donations. Since I started recording my Christmas expenses, I learned that they occur almost every month, with the bulk being obviously in November-December. I spend around 4.5 K on Christmas each year. That does not mean that I am a compulsive Christmas shopper, and it does not mean that I am looking to reduce these expenses. That’s budgeted every year, and every year, I reduce other expenses in December to accommodate this spike. Since I am not exactly a miracle worker, it costs money to have miracles happen, and I am happy to invest this money into the Christmas magic.

It is sad when people say that “this money could be used for some much-needed items.” It is sad that for several years now, we are not allowed to gift something nice to the adults in our “adopted families” and are asked for gift cards instead – I would be happy to do both. Adults need magic, same as kids :).

While I have the means, I will continue to do what I am doing now: being Mrs. Claus for many people all over the world.

The Year Is Not Finished For Me Yet

Not only because there are several more hours left, but also, because there are too many things “in flight” now. In course of the past three days I had several new experiences, including driving with the baby on board :), and overall, I am seen this year off not like I planned a couple of days ago.

This been said, I hope that in a week I will be finally able to say good bye to 2020. Until that, I have tons of things to do.

On the bright side, I have more presents! This mask was set to me from Michigan, and I love it!

And just today, I received the sweets from my friend from Ufa, which is not an alien settlement, but the capital of Bashkortostan. Which in turn is not an imaginary country, but a part of Russia, located on the border of Europe and Asia.

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Time To Give Gifts, And Time To Receive Gifts

Almost all f my parcels, except for one, already reached their destinations, which delights me. I haven’t heard from two people who have received my parcels according to the USPS, but I hope to hear from them soon.

And now finally the packages which were sent to me started to Arrive.
That’s the gift I received from Kentucky.

The vanilla body lotion is heavenly, and the ornament is beautiful. When I realized that my new friend sent me the components to mix, add the liquid components, and bake-it-myself, I had mixed feelings, which might be understandable after 774 cookies :).

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All Is Right

And all of a sudden, the rush is over. I can’t stop smiling since last evening.
I had just two and a half workdays this week – we were dismissed at 1 PM yesterday, and since more than half of the company is on vacation, plus we have a code freeze, I was able to do work at work! That felt great – I was able to close all my tickets for the current sprint, the first time in I do not know how long!

Granted, there is still a lot of work with the book, we have ten days to finish, and there is still a substantial amount of writing. However, since I have so many days off, I am confident we will finish on time.

Yesterday, I stopped at the post office to drop off my cookies. Like with my nail spa and physical therapy, I packed small individual boxes rather than one box or a tray. I chose really pretty cookies for them because shipping for many years, I know first-hand how hard they work and how under-appreciated they are.

Their supervisor was on the shift, and I stopped aside, waited for a customer to complete their transactions, and told her: that’s for you guys, thank you!!! She was so happy I can’t even describe it:).

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Still Trying To Do Everything

I have to repeat one more time: our book and Christmas do not go well together. Even wrapping the presents and finishing a relatively small chapter – that’s what I was trying to do today – resulted in not completing either. Twenty other small things were not even started.

However, when I thanked our reviewer for returning the last chapter and added: I should have asked you for your postal address to send you some cookies; well, next year then, he emailed me his address immediately :). That being said, package number 19 is ready to be shipped.

I took Mom to the nail spa, and we both did our nails, and I left a small bag of cookies for each of the staff (these days, you can’t bring a cookie tray to any business).

The weather was nice and sunny, and I biked to the forest preserve on both Saturday and Sunday.

The country (at least, the State of Illinois) is experiencing the Christmas supplies crisis. All stores I visited over the weekend have close to nothing of Christmas decorations, lights, or packaging. I didn’t want to buy any extra wrapping/packaging until I figured out what I needed, and when I figured it out, it was too late. Now, I had to improvise with what I have.

I do not know who does not feel like Christmas – I certainly do 🙂

Trying to Finish Everything

“Everything” means the book and the rest of Christmas. With the book, after two or three extremely nervous weeks, I feel a little bit better. We are done with the first twelve chapters, meaning we already received the reviewer’s feedback and replied and/or made changes. We are making final edits on Chapter 13, and we have both Chapter 8 and 14 more than half-done. (We realized that we missed something after we were already on Chapter 11, that’s why it is out of order).

After those two will be completed, we will only have Chapter 15 and a Conclusion left; those two are small and do not require new examples (examples being the most time-consuming part). It is still a lot, plus we need at least one Appendix and a Glossary, and some pictures clean-up. So, it is still a lot.

Christmas. On Thursday, I finished decorating sugar cookies, partially in the morning before work, and the rest – in the evening.

Today, I baked one more batch of Russian Tea Cakes because I suddenly ran out of them, although I baked two batches at the very beginning of the cookies marathon. Also, I tried one more time to bake pumpkin and dates cookies. Last year, I didn’t like the results, but though it might be because I used my own pumpkin puree instead of the canned one, and I thought that the problem could be in the wrong consistency. This yeat, I used preserves, but I am still not sure whether I like the outcome.
I mailed the last batch of parcels on Wednesday; all the rest will be hand-delivered. And I am very glad that almost half of the parcels had already reached their destinations.

774 cookies. 118 sugar cookies decorated. 18 parcels sent. 15 boxes of cookies hand-delivered so far (or ready to be delivered), plus one giant box for the youth shelter.
… Now, it’s time to start packing the non-cookie presents 🙂

In Chicago

On Tuesday, I went to Chicago, mostly to deliver cookies for several people in the city. I was surprised and delighted to see that they put up a Christmas tree inside the Palatine train station.

There is way less people n the train that in was in October, but still more than in March and April.

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Christmas Shipping

During the Christmas season, I try to ship my domestic parcels in the USPS kiosk, and I try to do it late at night when there is no line (they are open 24X7).

I planned to do it on Saturday, but since I didn’t have access to my car, I could no do it, and Vlad came only on Sunday afternoon, and after all the other things I had to address, I when to the post office late at night on Sunday.

Unfortunately, the outcome was expected: by that time, there were so many parcels left in the course of the weekend that the loading door won’t open. I thought that I could at least print the labels, but the kiosk screen was also stuck in the “Please wait” mode!

i did not want to stay in the line on Monday, so I finally learned how to use Click&Ship, and printed all the labels at home, and paid online :). I could even arrange a pickup at home, but I didn’t want to wait for another day, so I drove to the post office to drop them off.

Christmas baking – the second installment
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The First Part of the Christmas Baking

Baking alone can be considered a success because I ended up baking enough to send all of my long-distance shipments, and there is still plenty left. I will bake more next weekend, and I should have enough for all my giveaways plus something extra. At least, I hope so. There are so many people to whom I want to give cookies! 

I brought this apple-cinnamon filling form Finland
Last year, after baking kolacki for ten years, I finally figured out how to prepare the apricot filling the right way!
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